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Let’s do a thought experiment.
What will make Americans love soccer? If you said high-speed jumping cars that sometimes explode, congratulations. You are correct!
Rocket League is a new car-based sports game from developer Psyonix (out now on PlayStation 4 and PC) that is all about pitting two teams of cars against one another on a soccer pitch. If that sounds dumb to you, it’s because it is. But I assure you that it is dumb in all of the best ways.
What you’ll like
It’s really just soccer
When I describe Rocket League as a game with cars that play soccer, you might think that is interesting new sport. But it isn’t. This is exactly, 100 percent the same game that Lionel Messi is so good at. The only difference is that this is something that you might see in the 15th Fast & Furious film.
But this means that all of the strategies that work in soccer — as long as they can translate to a three-car team (the standard Rocket League mode), they’ll work in this game. Long drives, centering passes, striker/midfielder/defender positioning: It translates 1-to-1, and it makes Rocket League feel instantly like a sport that ought to exist on television every weekend alongside golf and baseball.
And it’s a game that will hide how bad you are at it
The thing about sports is that they require players to have mutliple skillsets that don’t always come naturally. To play soccer, you need coordination, reflexes, speed, and an eye for the game. Hell, a lot of these things are what you need to play something like League of Legends and Dota 2. And people can tell quickly if you stink at those games/sports. But Rocket League’s insane, fast-paced car gameplay does a good job of masking your lack of skill in its chaos.
Did you miss an obvious, easy goal because you misjudged how fast you should’ve gone at the ball with your car? That’s OK! You’re playing soccer in a friggin’ car. You’re gonna miss some shots.
Rocket League gives you permission to suck, which — in turn — gives you the time you need to actually learn the nuance of the game so that you can appreciate it even more.
What you won’t like
Weak teammates are frustrating
You will eventually get good at the game, and you might start to notice that the other people on your team repeatedly chase a ball into the corner and never spread out or play a position.
Rocket League is a team sport, and so you can easily lose matches if people don’t work together in some capacity. And when you have a team that doesn’t collaborate, it can end up as a painful five minutes that leads to an inevitable loss no matter how well you play.
It’s July, but I can’t imagine that I’m going to play enough games to knock Rocket League off of my “game of the year” list. It is that much fun. It’s a blast, and it’s actually just as much fun to watch — which is evident by the number of popular livestreams you can watch of Rocket League on Twitch.
We used to get a ton of weird sports games like Mutant League Football and Basewars, but our risk-adverse industry has forgotten about how fun these can be. I hope that Rocket League can show the people making and playing games just how amazing these kinds of releases are.
We reviewed this game after downloading it as part of our PlayStation Plus subscription. It is out now on PlayStation 4 and PC.